A Canadian WestJet passenger is upset with how the airline handled the cancellation of his flight from London, England, to Toronto late last week.
Adam St. John said he believes European Union regulations require the airlines to re-book passengers like him at the earliest opportunity.
“When I went through, they couldn’t help me at the front desk, which was incredibly frustrating because I thought, you know, by sort of sprinting through the airport that I’d have a chance at getting on a new flight,” he said.
St. John said the airline’s customer service people refused to get him on another flight, even though it was his understanding, under European Union regulations, airlines must re-book passengers like him at the earliest opportunity.
“I hit the first sort of layer of customer service and pressed on that customer representative that I had to be home and that they had this obligation to re-book me,” he said.
“And the answer was, ‘well, no, we’re just going to book everyone all at once on our flight two days later.”
WestJet says it’s sorry
“Maybe I was just unlucky. Maybe because I was at the front of the wave they hadn’t figured out what their support response was going to be. But when I went through, they couldn’t help me at the front desk.”
Canadian air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs agrees that St. John was mistreated, saying immediate re-booking is one of the options passengers are entitled to, another is financial compensation.
“If the passenger says I want the next available flight then they have to remove him on the next available flight, end of story,” he said.
In a statement, WestJet said it apologized to the guests and that the cancellation was due to a health problem with a crew member.
The airline said it made every effort to accommodate guests with meals, hotels and alternative flights as soon as possible.
WestJet said a third of the passengers were re-booked on alternative airlines, with some getting out the next day on a WestJet flight. The majority were flown home on a flight 48 hours later.
WestJet adds it will work with guests on compensation and that it does follow EU regulations.
Europeans enjoy the world’s strongest consumer protections when flying. Their bill of rights outlines how airlines must treat passengers when things go wrong, including generous compensation that can reach up to $900 for the longest delays on long-haul flights. Those rules apply to any flight on a European carrier, but also extend to Canadian carriers if the flight is departing from Europe.
The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) is currently in the midst of a three-month consultation process to help the federal government draft a new passengers’ ‘bill of rights’ to be added to the recently amended Canada Transportation Act.